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Watch the Rocking Chair: 5 online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Guitar Cubed

Let’s get right down to it: Guitar 1 is all about counterpoint. But, what the heck is THAT? A compositional tool most associated with Baroque-style music, counterpoint is the relationship between two (or more) voices that are independent of one another in rhythm and/or harmony. Looking at it from Guitar 1’s standpoint will make that Berklee-like definition make way more sense.

Bars 1, 3 and 7 feature an ascending chromatic riff that starts on a stock 3rd position G5 chord on the 6th and 5th strings on the downbeat. What happens in the next two chords is the counterpoint part. First, let’s think of the G5 chord not as one chord but a combination of two voices, G and D. On the upbeat of beat 1 after the G5 is played, the next chord is an Ab major (no 5th). Thinking in voice terms, the G goes up to the Ab while the D goes down to C. Up next is the downbeat of beat 2 where the Ab that came up from the G continues to go up to A, which is the target of the entire riff. As for the second voice, the C that came down from the D jumps up to G on the 4th string. By themselves the lower voice, G-G#-A, just simply goes up chromatically where as the higher voice, D-C-G, zigzags pitch wise. If the higher voice had continued to descend than we would call this maneuver contrary motion, which are two independent voices consistently moving in opposite directions. Since our two voices are moving in unrelated directions, they’re deemed counterpoint.

Considering the above intricacy, one might pose the question, “Why?” Because it sounds cool! Not to take anything away from the shear raw power of walking power chords up chromatically from bVII-I, it’s just cool to hear something as common as this move receive a little "juice".

The physical aspect to key in on in regards to this counterpoint rock riff is the fingering. Check out the setup utilized as it is the most economical. The G5 is fingered 1-4 from low to high. Now, many of you may finger power chords with the 1st and 3rd fingers and that’s OK, of course--just watch. The Ab major fragment is fingered as 2-1 from low to high. The key here is that the 2nd finger is on-deck and can quickly drop in from the G5 grip. From the Ab, the 2nd finger moves up to the 5th fret A and the on-deck 3rd finger frets the G on the 5th fret, 4th string to form an A7-inclined diad. As for the un-played 5th string, the 2nd finger just leans over a smidge and mutes it with little effort.


All together this part has more going on under the hood than you might have thought. Pretty sneaky, huh?